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Helicopter pilot describes laser incident

Suffolk County police officer Tom Smith, a pilot

Suffolk County police officer Tom Smith, a pilot with the department's aviation unit, describes how the green light from a laser pointer was aimed at his helicopter. (July 26, 2012) Photo Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

The green laser beam hit the Suffolk County police helicopter's windshield and bounced around the cockpit Tuesday night.

"What was that?" Officer Tom Smith asked.

A medic in the backseat said the light had first appeared on the left side of the aircraft, and moved from back to front.

Smith, who was flying the aircraft over Central Islip around 5,000 feet with co-pilot Officer Rich Davin, repositioned the copter toward the light source, and the green beam again hit the cockpit.

This time, police were ready -- Davin had the aircraft spotlight aimed in the laser's direction. The spotlight revealed a teenager, later identified as a 14-year-old Brentwood boy.

On Thursday, the officers involved in the incident talked to reporters at the aviation unit's headquarters near Long Island MacArthur Airport.

The teen questioned by authorities has not been charged with a crime, but the investigation is continuing, said Insp. Stuart Cameron, executive officer of Suffolk's Office of Chief of Patrol.

"We removed the laser from him," Cameron said. "We let his mother know. The immediate hazard has been removed. It's unlikely he will repeat this behavior."

Shining a laser at an aircraft can be prosecuted as a state or federal crime, Cameron said. Police and federal investigators also want to know whether the teen identified Tuesday is responsible for a July 15 laser-pointing incident involving a JetBlue Airways plane flying over Ronkonkoma en route to Kennedy Airport.

"Because his conduct was similar, that will be part of the investigation," Cameron said.

The co-pilot of the JetBlue flight suffered vision problems after the green laser beam appeared in the cockpit. The flight landed safely.

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